Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Notice: Craig Koester - The Word of Life

Craig Koester
The Word of Life: A Theology of John's Gospel
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.
Available at

There are a number of good introductons to the Gospel of John (e.g. W. Carter, J. Ashton, R.E. Brown, R. Kysar, G. Burge), but my favourite for the moment is Craig Koester's new book The Word of Life. The TOC is viewable here. My favourite part is the final section on "Jesus as the Way in a Pluralistic World":

"The Fourth Gospel presents a particular message with a universal scope. At the beginning of our study we noted that the evangelist wrote in a world of varied religious traditions. The people depicted in this Gospel have different ideas about God, and their viewpoints conflict. John is no stranger to interreligious controversy. In this context, he seeks to show that God is known in a definitive way through what God has done in Jesus. John can speak to the pluralistic world in which his readers live because he has something particular to offer. To make the message less particular would mean making the love of God less radical, since the evangelist understands that divine love is definitively conveyed through the crucified and risen Messiah. At the same time, John understands that God's love is given in this particular way for the sake of the world (3:16). This means that the Gospel writer cannot say, 'Jesus is the way for me but not for you.' To say that would be to say that 'the love of God is for me but not for you,' or that 'Jesus went the way of the cross and resurrection for me but not for you.' The Jesus of John's Gospel sends his followers into the world. There they meet human beigns who, like themselves, have no innnate ability to generate relationship with God. What the followers of Jesus bring is what they themselves have received: the message of the cruciform love of God that calls any and all to faith and life. This is the purpose for which John's Gospel was written (20:31)." (page 214).

If I were teaching a course of the Gospel of John, I would probably set my materials as:

1. Introduction: Craig Koester, The Word of Life (though Burge and Kysar are quite tempting).

2. Commentary: Andreas Köstenberger, John BECNT series (but with D.A. Carson, Leon Morris, C.K. Barrett, CraigItalic Keener on a reading list).

3. Other: The Gospel of John on DVD which I ordinarily watch over 13 weeks with my NT 102 students and it is most beneficial.

4. Further recommended reading would have to based around M. Hengel, R. Brown, R. Bauckham, and D. Moody Smith and their assorted works.

1 comment:

Joel Willitts said...

I agree with your assessment of Koester's new book. It is good and I will likely use it as a requred text in the future.

I teach John in the context of an Evangelical university so I have found Burge's NIVAC to be very good in connecting the text to life--where most undergrads are. They find Burge accessible and he does not duck the important exegetical issues. I also like his narrative approach to the interpretation. I used Koestenberger for a couple of years, but in the end did not feel that it was best for my context, namely undergraduate liberal arts education. Also K. is quite preoccupied with questions of historicity and it impinges on his literary interpretation in my view.

I also would recommend Lincoln's recent commentary in the Black series. He espouses the now minority position that John depended on the Synoptics and uses this as a major rubric of interpretation.